April 04, 2006

Invasion of the philosophical jocks

Language Log has been slashdotted several times, linked to by Andrew Sullivan, discussed on NPR, and cited in the pages of The Economist, among other sources of blips in our visit and pageview counts. But as large a blip as any of these has come today from a paid-subscription sports site, Baseball Prospectus, where Kevin Goldstein's Future Shock column today linked to Geoff Pullum's 12/30/2005 post on the American Philosophical Association's Eastern Division meetings.

Goldstein's piece is about "surprise names on opening day rosters". The Baltimore Orioles' roster includes an outfielder named Nick Markakis, whom Goldstein (in an email to me) characterized as "good, but not ready yet". What does this have to do with the American Philosphical Association? Well, not much, really. Goldstein attributes Markakis' roster spot to the intervention of the Oriole's owner, Peter Angelos, in an imaginary conversation whose last word links to Geoff's post:

I get the feeling a conversation happened in the Baltimore front office recently, and it went something like this:

[Phone rings]
Important Front Office Guy: Hello?
Voice On Phone: Hey There! You see my boy Markakis again?
IFOG: [sighs]. Yes sir, Mr. Angelos. He's going to be a good one, sir.
Peter Angelos: He sure is! I can't wait to see him with the big league club this year!
IFOG: Mr. Angelos, please don't get me wrong here. Markakis is an outstanding prospect, clearly our best, and he's had a fantastic spring. But our outfield situation is very crowded, and to keep him we're going to have to not only take at-bats away from a veteran, but go with one fewer pitcher on the roster than we'd like.
PA: Well, I'm sure you'll figure something out to get my boy Nick on the roster for Tuesday. Maybe a bench role!
IFOG: We also feel that Nick needs some more time, sir. He has only 33 games above A ball, and is just 22. No need to rush him, sir. In the minors he could play every day and continue to develop.
PA: Get it done!
IFOG: Yes, sir.


When I saw all those baseball fans clicking through to Geoff's post, I was at a loss to predict the connection. Kevin was kind enough to send me the segment, even though I'm not a subscriber, and I'll confess that it would have taken me quite a few guesses to get it.

It's more than fair for a baseball writer to find a punch line in one of our posts, given how often we've used baseball references, at least in passing:

"Playing for the Dominican, skiing in Czech, working in Saudi" (3/3/2006)
"Sketchballs" (2/18/2006)
"Football's F-word" (11/29/2005)
"When 'there's' isn't 'there is'" (9/1/2005)
"Stuff" (5/11/2005)
"Historically untracked" (5/11/2005)
"The mystery of #12" (1/21/2005)
"Grice, Pascal, The Times, and Barry Bonds" (4/20/2004)
"Bonds Ties Mays" (4/13/2004)
"Pete Rose and sorry statements of the third kind" (1/13/2004)

Actually, I'm surprised that there aren't a lot more baseball references in Language Log's back list. I can't answer for the others who post here, but my own excuse is the sad trajectory of the post-1993 Phillies, along with the lack of any local equivalent to the Cubs tradition of finding fun in losing baseball.

Judging by the number of clicks it generates, Baseball Prospectus must have quite a respectable number of subscribers. Meanwhile, it seems to me that weblogs and forums and such -- what marketing types have taken to calling "consumer-generated media" -- are growing rapidly in the sports area. Back in September of 2003, Davide Dikcevich complained in Forbes that "Sports blogs ... are few and meager". That's a long time ago, in blog years, and my casual impression is that sports-oriented blogs have been springing up like mushrooms after a wet summer.

Posted by Mark Liberman at April 4, 2006 07:22 PM